Key Steps to Enhance Your Financial Institution’s Brand

July 30, 2020  |  Jan Trifts

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, financial institutions have been focused on helping their accountholders, communities and small businesses. But when the pandemic has subsided and financial institutions get back to normal operations, how community-based banks and credit unions have managed their response to COVID-19 will have a major impact on their overall brands, and recent efforts to support and sustain their communities will pay long-term dividends.

Raddon determines brand strength by tracking the consumer purchasing process through four stages: awareness, consideration, purchase and repurchase. Are consumers aware of you? Will they consider using your services? Do they purchase those services? Will they purchase from you again?

The Raddon Brand Benchmarking Study has surveyed more than 50,000 consumers from more than 60 financial institutions, including the nation’s largest banks and credit unions. We have found that while the big banks have a clear edge in awareness, community banks and credit unions tend to perform better in the other three stages. The pandemic has given smaller institutions the chance to build awareness in new ways while maximizing their advantage in the other phases.

The table below shows the average results for each of the stages in the brand funnel. 

Key Recommendations on How to Enhance Your Brand

Stage One: Building Awareness (in the Age of COVID-19)

Building awareness is about getting the institution’s name into the marketplace. Before the pandemic, this often meant hosting educational events, providing sponsorships, and encouraging staff to be active in the community and live the brand. While COVID-19 makes physical events more challenging, there are still many ways banks and credit unions can enhance visibility.

  • Scrutinize the website – Since prospective customers and members are far more likely to interact electronically than in person, it is critical to ensure the institution’s web presence is updated with information and operational changes and is optimized for search engines  
  • Look for community partners – Financial institutions can use their websites and social media presence to raise awareness of not only their institution but also of local restaurants and other organizations in the community that may be struggling
  • Staff involvement – Food banks and other community organizations are likely in need of volunteers. Encourage staff to continue to be actively involved in the community

The critical factor is building visibility for the institution.

Stage Two: Moving Consumers From Awareness to Consideration

  • Be sure products and services are easy to use – This is a key area for financial institutions to focus on given the proliferation of Fintechs that focus on ease of use as one of their selling features. Critically review all touchpoints to look for opportunities to simplify the process
  • Use current accountholders in marketing – Feature loyal customers and members speaking about their relationship with the institution. These testimonials should focus on situations when accountholder expectations were exceeded, a staff member went above and beyond to assist them, and other experiences that will build  trust in the community
  • Know the competitive advantage – Conduct regular research on other financial institutions, including online banks and Fintechs. Identify areas such as product portfolio, new product features, pricing and current offers where there is a competitive advantage 

The critical factor is meeting and exceeding consumer expectations.

Stage Three: Moving Consumers From Consideration to Purchase

  • Provide an Amazon-like experience – Financial institutions need to make banking easy, fast and convenient with 24/7 access. Accountholder reviews of products and services should be readily available. Product recommendations should be made based on the accountholder’s current product usage, transactions, browsing history and similar factors
  • Have an onboarding program – This is important to the successful development of the new accountholder relationship. Review current practices to look for opportunities for improvement. Ask how the accountholder prefers to be contacted and then communicate in that channel. Schedule regular outreach from the staff to new accountholders during the first six months. Using predictive analytics can help determine which product recommendations can be made and the appropriate timing for that offer
  • Offer total money makeovers – Helping the customer or member review their current financial situation is extremely valuable. Start with an offer to review their credit report. This provides a great opportunity to discuss with accountholders how they can potentially save money by refinancing higher interest rate loans and credit cards

The critical factor is building an emotional connection with the customer or member.

Stage Four: Building Forever Relationships

  • Employee training – Knowledgeable team members are critical to the repurchase phase. Ongoing training is especially important given the high turnover rate experienced by many financial institutions. Customers and members expect and demand strong product knowledge and friendly customer service skills
  • Improving responsiveness – One of the most common complaints when an accountholder has a servicing issue is lack of responsiveness. Have staff continue to attempt to connect using multiple channels – phone, voicemail, text message, email – until the issue is addressed 
  • Problem resolution – This is key to ensuring future purchases from your customers or members. Servicing issues are going to happen. What’s critical is how responsive financial institutions are in resolving those issues. Review current escalation procedures to increase the likelihood of quickly addressing any complaints or issues   

The critical factor is delivering on the brand promise.

As financial institutions move from crisis mode to recovery, these key steps can help them enhance their brands and improve engagement.

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